Ten years after al-Qaida declared war against the United States, andseven years after the U.S. followed suit, much of what we know aboutthe group is filtered through the lens of the Global War on Terror, aconcept that hides and distorts as much as it reveals. In reducingal-Qaida to a terrorist organization, we have ignored the broadersocio-cultural movement it represents. The result has been to overlookthe range of its activities on the one hand, while exaggerating itsprospects for success on the other. To formulate a soundstrategic response to al-Qaida, we must first have a clearunderstanding of just what kind of enemy […]

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If any of you are in the habit of entering the site through the blog without taking a look at some of the frontpage content, I encourage to click through to our latest biweekly feature issue, “The Al-Qaida We Don’t Know.” Three articles (here, here and here) on the various ways in which, seven years into the “Global War on Terror,” we’ve yet to fully take the measure of just who our principal enemy is. Click through. You’ll be glad you did.

Editor’s Note: This article is one of three WPR features on the theme “The Al-Qaida We Don’t Know.” WASHINGTON — At 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2007, a suicide bomber blew the Moorish-style facade off the building that housed Algeria’s Constitutional Council, which oversees the country’s elections. Ten minutes later, elsewhere in Algiers, a truck containing 1,800 pounds of explosives and another suicide attacker leveled part of a United Nations building. The blasts killed 42 people — including 17 U.N. employees — and injured 158 others. They were also the surest sign to date that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb […]

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A bitter power struggle within South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has not only led to the imminent formation of a splinter party. It has also completely changed the face of South African politics. In the shadows of the struggle for political supremacy, both the country’s economy and its human rights record have taken a beating over the past five months. The struggle for control of the ANC began after the election of a new National Executive Committee (NEC) during the party’s national congress last December in Polokwane, in the country’s northern province of Limpopo. […]

The U.S.S. Kearsarge amphibious assault ship set sail from Norfolk, Va., in August, on a mission to provide free medical care to six Latin American countries. But five days into her four-month cruise, on Aug. 11, Kearsarge made an important detour, swinging within helicopter range of Miami to receive visitors. The roughly 20 people who clambered aboard from the hulking Marine Corps choppers represented a mix of U.S. military brass, civilian aid workers, local Miami elected officials and Spanish-language media. “Our multinational team is dedicated to recommit and fortify our relationships in South America,” Capt. Frank Ponds, ranking U.S. officer […]

In the midst of two wars and with an “era of persistent conflict” foreseen ahead, America and its military are confronting battlefield urgencies and operational complexities that challenge the very way in which we conceive of warfare. Whether on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on the waters off of Somalia, the reality of today’s conflicts have exposed gaps in our tactical thinking and operational approach to waging war. The responses have combined doctrinal evolutions and operational innovations, demonstrating once again the strategic asset represented by American ingenuity and creative thinking. But they have also generated a passionate and […]

The three short articles by an anthropology professor from California seemed out of place beside a large area map and various military memoranda on a plywood wall at combat outpost Tarmiyah, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. Not long ago, the accompanying note demanding that all platoon and squad leaders not only read the articles, but pass the information along to their men, would have made most commanders in Iraq laugh at the thought of burdening their already overworked junior officers and NCOs with articles by college professors. But the conduct of the Iraq War has taken a decidedly cultural […]

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Three weeks after Zimbabwe’s historic powersharing agreement was signed in Harare on Sept. 15 by President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, the country’s national unity government has yet to materialize. The three rivals have failed to resolve a standoff over key cabinet positions, with the opposition accusing the Zimbabwean leader of trying to make it a junior partner in the proposed unity government. According to the deal, brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) party is entitled […]

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On Sept. 25, Somali pirates armed with rockets and assault rifles and traveling in small boats called “skiffs,” scaled the side of the Ukrainian cargo ship Fainaoff the Somali coast and overpowered the 22 crew members on board. Inside the 530-foot roll-on, roll-off vessel, the pirates made a surprise discovery: 33 Soviet-designed T-72 tanks, plus small arms, rockets and ammunition. The arms shipment was reportedly on its way to an unspecified customer in Sudan, but now seems likely to wind up on the African black market instead, unless the vessel’s shady owners cough up the unprecedented $20-million ransom demanded by […]

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a new biweekly column by World Politics Review Contributing Editor David Axe. Axe is an independent correspondent who has covered conflicts from Somalia to Afghanistan to East Timor. The column shares its name with David’s blog, which is at WarIsBoring.com. On a morning late last November in Mogadishu, Somalia, a tall, toothy 65-year-old man climbed into his beat-up sedan parked in the makeshift squatter’s camp he called home. Ali Mohamed Siyad, chairman of the central Bakara Market — once the economic engine of Mogadishu, but now a mostly ruined battleground — motored […]